Beautiful to behold, difficult to master, a joy to race.
Game review: F1 2010
When any new Formula One computer game hits the shelves, its developers inevitably claim to have created the closest experience yet to being an actual F1 driver. But in the case of F1 2010, from the UK games house Codemasters, it happens to be true. From competing in a Grand Prix to individual time trials and the career-management options, the game delivers on every level and offers something that any player can enjoy - from veteran motorsport enthusiasts to casual gamers.
Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina circuit is one of the 19 tracks that have been included and conditions are set-up almost exactly as the drivers in November's race will experience them. Raceable for the first time on major platforms (although previously included on PSP) the course challenges players to find the braking point at the infamous turn 10 as the setting sun glares down on to the track. Having crashed at pretty much every corner as I tried to navigate around the Yas circuit in Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull car, the course is every bit as tough as it looks up close.
The input of Anthony Davidson, who acted as consultant for Codemasters, has clearly guided the developers well. The recently completed Korean circuit, which will be raced upon in real life next month, also appears in the game in glorious detail. Being the most realistic racer ever created, the handling is understandably difficult to master, even on the easiest setting. Braking is particularly difficult to get right: leave it too late and the car flies off the track; however, too little pressure on the brakes causes the tyres to lower in temperature and lose grip. The acceleration is extremely powerful and it will take most players several laps to feel comfortable with the car.
From sunlight reflecting on the bonnets of the vehicles to gravel flying off the tyres - the graphics are simulator quality and quite beautiful to behold. Driving in the wet at the classic Spa- Francorchamps track in Belgium is stunningly authentic, with the driver's vision impaired by spray while trees rustle from side to side in the stormy conditions. But despite the game's almost pedantic level of technical and visual detail, racing is still a joy.
Previous games have had career modes that allow players to manage drivers and teams throughout an entire season, but F1 2010 takes the idea up a notch. Between matches, players take part in press conferences, and the answers given have consequences back on the track. Criticism of Michael Schumacher, for example, is likely to result in aggressive behaviour from the German driver during the next race. Crashing into someone will not only lead to a penalty from the stewards, but serious rivalries with fellow drivers, too.
The game succeeds at giving players of all abilities an authentic experience of F1 driving, from just a short race to a full season - what better way is there of getting in the mood for when the cars arrive in Abu Dhabi for real in November?